How to boss your Singapore layover

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So whilst traveling through south east asia I had roughly 7 hours in Singapore.

Singapore is a an amazing place that i had always wanted to visit so I wasn’t about to let an opportunity to see this beautiful city up close and personal. My Target? The Sky Park Rooftop gardens and view point. In this post i’ll leat you know how I saw the city, visited the roof top bar, ate and drank all for $36.60 (sinagpore Dollars)
So first thing is first we don’t want to waist anytime so on your flight to Singapore fill out an immigration card, this will save you time on your way our of the Airport.

Singapore Airport

This place is magical. So much to see and do you could spend a day in the airport and not see it all its nice. Real Nice. But we’ll talk about ir later the really exciting thing is the city.
If your going to leave the airport i’d say you need a minimum of four hours to get into town have a walk about, visit either the sky park or big wheel and get back.
FYI if you have a bit of time and want to see the city but don’t fancy taking on the responsibility of the adventure yourself there is a free tour available, just ask the information desks. They’ll point you in the right direction. Not really my cup of tea but its available to anyone who’s partial… to.. tea.

Follow the signs that say ‘Train to city’ 

You buy a ticket from the machine on the wall not the customer desk. Don’t let the que full you!
when you get to the train station buy a return ticket to the city you can open the map on the screen and choose exactly which point you want to stop at. I chose ‘City Hall’ It’s bang in the middle of town, provides a scenic walk along the waterside to the skylark building and was $4.60 return. It takes around 30 minutes to get into town.
When I got to the city centre I jumped of the train and had a quick look at the cathedral outside and then began a 20-30 minute walk towards the skylark building. you can’t miss it. its the one that looks like a ship balancing on three skyscrapers. Immediately you will notice how clean the city is. Like its fresh out the box. People respect where they live. Weird right?
The walk to the Sky Park building is awesome. you walk along the riverside in a very metropolitan area with joggers, walkers, couples ice cream stands all very pleasant. If Thailand is a Bull in a china shop then Singapore is an elegant leopard balancing sitting silently in a diamond store.
Cross the bridge towards the building and head up. i ended up walking in the back way to the hotel by accident but didn’t mind as i got a sneaky peak at some rich fucker’s cars. which made me all warm inside.
Now according to some posts I’ve seen if you ask to go for drinks at the bar inside you can waver the fee to the roof however i didn’t seem to be presented with this opportunity. I followed a sign to the rooftop viewing deck and paid $23 Singapore dollars to get to the roof. I was happy to pay I’ve been reading about Singapore for years and this building has been on my hit list for a long time!
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I’m happy to admit that as soon as i saw the view a lump of joy hit my throat. I’d been waiting for this moment since i saw Singapore on a travel blog 4 years ago but never managed to get there until today.
I had a walk around and then got a diet coke and a hotdog ( $9 ) I grabbed a seat by the edge sat down while the sun set and enjoyed every moment of the view and the food. I can’t explain watching Singapore city centre slowly light up as the sun slowly goes down. You have to sea it yourself and with views of the famous formula 1 circuit, iconic stand alone skyscrapers and docks lit up with cruise liners this was a highlight of a 7 week trip ( so far ) .
Once my boots were filled i headed down and strolled around the city for an hour before heading back to the airport.
Now the airport is huge. take the sky train between zones or you will be walking all night. The butterfly garden is supposed to be amazing though i never found it. I did visit the cactus garden, social square and various bars. What  cool place. It has a free cinema, video game arcade, swimming pool, spa blah blah everything you could want. If you were exhausted from flights you could just sit and watch movies, for free. In fact I’m sitting in Singapore airport as i write this position a comfy large cushioned lounge chair in front of a flat screen playing modern movies with personal speaks and free wifi and none of it has cost me a penny. So, cheers to Changi Airport!

Conclusion

Things to note
  • Travel time each way from airport to city is 30 mins
  • People talk about sky park dress code? I was wearing grey cotton lounge shorts, a thin t shirt, nike roche run trainers and a baseball cap and was greeted with a large smile so don’t really understand that.. Maybe its just my winning smile.
  • Allow 20 mins for immigration que on the way in and out
  • Explore the airport if you have time its awesome!
  • Make use of left luggage to make your city experience better! its cheap
total price
Train $4.60
sky park ticket $23
hot dog and diet coke $9
total $36.60 SINGAPORE / £17 / $25 USA
Off to Singapore now! next post coming soon!
John

Visiting The Elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai – Thailand

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Visiting Elephants in Chiang Mai is one of the most memorable things I have done in my entire life and is a definite focal point for many people’s journey to t Thailand. I have linked the company we used at the bottom of this post.

These amazing, beautiful, powerful but deeply emotional animals are different to other members of the kingdom in that they are tuned in to social behaviour on an almost human level. I think that is what makes them so special. They have preference, moods, personalities, likes and dislikes. It’s strange and hypnotic.

Heres my guide to a great day out.

Watch out for companies that mistreat animals.

When you arrive in Thailand there are many companies to choose from when you are looking to see an elephant. As a general rule stay away from elephant trekking. These companies use harsh training techniques and over work there elephants. The elephants in these camps often suffer from infection under the skin because of the saddles, they are usually over fatigued, under fed and emotionally depressed. We passed a trekking camp with a calf chained to a post for the entire day in order to sell a photo with an elephant for 200 Bahtt. We were deeply disturbed by this. Most trekking companies originated when logging became illegal in Thailand so the elephant keepers needed a new way to make money. they took to tourism and are able to support themselves this way however the elephants continue to suffer. If you walk past a trekking camp look at the elephants. For me it was easy to see that they were unhappy and ill. I struggled to watch.

Thats not to say elephants are always mistreated when ridden. A few of the sanctuaries do show photos of riding, Its hard to tell the degree of work an elephant is being put through without actually visiting but the guide of our sanctuary put it like this

‘Elephants can carry a maximum of 30% of there body weight. For a grown man that equates to a 25-30kg ruck sack. Im sure you wouldn’t struggle to lift it but if you had to walk 2 miles an hour with it for 8 – 10 hours a day I’m sure you wouldn’t feel so good at the end of the day.’

She went on to talk about rehab centres that ride from time to time…

‘Some elephants like it some don’t, just like people sometimes you’re out at the beach having fun you might give your friend a piggy back for a laugh. I think this is okay for a short time. But we don’t ride our elephants.’

The elephants at our camp were hilariously happy and looked healthy. They weren’t ridden and they were treated with care. no hooks no riding no hitting. The only time i saw any real commands shown to the elephant was when she was standing dangerously close to her baby and may have stood on her without realising as they were in water. in this case the trainer simply tugged on her ear and asked her to come the other way. she seemed to understand and followed the instructions.

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We spent the morning chopping up fruit for the elephants with machetes, this was great fun for everyone. I come from a hunting family so the cool factor of a big knife didn’t really speak to me but i could tell that most people were wowed at being trusted to cut there own fruit. It was great fun joining in in this process and cutting up some pumpkins.

‘This like chocolate for elephant!’ said one of the trainers

We then went on to feed the elephants which was hilarious. Immediately you see the differences in personalities some are pushy some are patient. The largest female would not take no for an answer and went through about half of my bag before i had to push her trunk back to stop the others getting jealous. If you don’t feed them equally they will argue and fight each other apparently!

We then went on to the mud bath and the elephants rolled around. No one asked them to get in they wanted to. The baby ‘Nina’ led the charge and began rolling around and her mother joined. The older elephants didn’t fancy it but watched from the side.

After lunch we we went down to a farm and learned how to cut sugar cane for the elephants which was great fun. We all cut our own pieces ate some ourselves and then walked down through a field towards the river. The elephants caught on and followed. They sure like sugar cane.

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Once they had eaten all the food it was time to cool off and they made there way into the river to wash the mud off from earlier. This was an incredible experience washing the elephants while the spray themselves, each other and us. Nina the baby would roll on her side under the water and stick the end of her trunk out for air. So cute!

We then had a slow walk back to the camp were we talked at length about elephants in captivity, circus, illegal logging and trekking. We learned about the origin of all the elephants in the sanctuary and talked about the challenges facing elephant sanctuaries.

We talked about this because we asked, i really felt i was getting honest answers from people who loved elephants and cared about saving them.

I could not recommend this trip enough. The entire day cost around £45 including food (amazing), transfer from hotel, tea, coffee and water. At the end of the day i felt i had visited a decent company and contributed towards there growth. There job seemed extremely fulfilling as they were making elephant’s lives better and peoples holidays better.

Company – Happy Elephant Home

http://www.happyelephanthome.com

https://www.facebook.com/Happy-elephant-home-1485558931702928/?fref=ts

 

Phuket – How to do REAL super healthy Protein shakes for 38 Bahht!

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I arrived in Phuket a few days ago. I’m staying in Soi Ta Ied in Challong Which is home to the famous UFC fighter training Tiger Muay thai and other great places. Its a huge fitness hub. Im not traveling on a super tight budget but i still want to get my monies worth and know what I’m putting into my body.  The food here is AMAZING but if your anything like me you don’t want to over do the carbs. There are plenty of cheap options but most of the better foods com with rice / noodles, the amount of meat in your dish won’t be huge ( pad thai pork option is sometimes just cut up bacon ) and unless you want to shell out the big bucks everyday for steaks this makes it hard to get your protein.

now I know what your thinking… everything in Thailand is cheap so just go grab so grab a tub of protein powder.  WRONG. Protein powder has not been in phuket for long a few years ago there was only one store on Soi Ta Ied that sold it. its more common now and in almost every sports store but super expensive. Getting a shake from a restaurant is anywhere between 70-120 bahht and for that you can have two or at Tony’s and Mamma’s restaurants THREE main courses! So it makes more sense just to eat!

Not to mention the fact that you don’t know whats going in your shake, is it name brand? gainer? lean? iso or just a banana and some strawberry milk. are they using one scoop? two? is it even really protein? Quite honestly – in Thailand, who the fuck knows. It could be chalk, sugar and milk as far as I’m concerned. You think these small businesses don’t want to save a buck? Maybe I’m a sceptic but I’ve figured out the better option.

So Here is how to get good clean protein without paying through the nose.

1.Head to Tesco Lotus, its five minutes away from Soi Ta Ied by taxi, or scooter. I got a lift from one of my training partners.

2.Buy a blender. Don’t grab the first one they have super cheap ones in the electronics section. mine cost 250 baht ( roughly 5 GBP) so have a good hunt.

3. Go get some eggs, some Actimel, a large tub of milk and some bananas.

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Do not buy your eggs or your bananas from the Family Mart stores. While they have some big deals and are a good option for things like yogurt and actable things like fruit , poultry etc are overpriced. Just like any corner shop at home.  Instead take a walk down the street talk to one of the fresh smoothie guys and ask for a bunch of bananas make a good deal. Then head to one of the other less official stores you can find eggs sold in a 30 pack. I talked the guy down to 140 but I’m sure you could get cheaper ask him to split the pack and bag it cos they’re a nightmare to carry.

4. lets cook!

My Recipe with Nutritional break down and prices.

1 x Banana – 6 bahht (when bought in bunch)

3x egg – 5 bahht each (when bought in 30 pack)

1x actimel – 7 Bahht ( buy at family mart not name brand )

1x 150ml milk – roughly 10 bahht ( buy large bottle for 91 bahht )

rough nutrition breakdown.

Protein – 24-28g

carbs – 31-35g

fat – 14-18g

If the carbs are too high for you, use half a banana the actamel is nice and sweet so your shake will still have flavour.

Blend that bitch. So there you have it. a protein shake with good carbs, potassium, active cultures, fibre, healthy natural fats, calcium, vitamins A, D, B-12, C, B-6, Magnesium, iron and all that good stuff in your actimel ALL FOR UNDER 40 BAHHT!

At the end of your trip give your blender to your may thai trainer or another guest. They’ll appreciate it.

Signing off from Phuket!

 

Traditional Bamboo Tattoo’s in Thailand 

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First thing’s first. Anyone who tells you tattoos don’t hurt either has an extremely high testicular fortitude or more pride than Mufasa.

So I have a few Tattoos. Some are good some are bad and some i did myself. But the work I had done in Thailand is by far my favourite. Getting a Tattoo in Thailand is an exciting prospect and something that a lot of people look forward to on their trips. For me it was an essential part of the trip to experience real Bamboo Tattoo work.

What is a Bamboo Tattoo?

Very fine needles are firmly attached to the end of a thin bamboo/steel rod using cotton. Usually 5 needles are used in this process but this can vary according to tattoo type and size. The needles are put in a line instead of a round bullet so that a very fine line can be achieved. This is then gently tapped into the skin.

With bamboo tattooing, the skin is punctured but not torn, which results in a significant reduction in pain ( for some people! ) and bleeding. Consequently there is no scabbing as with most machine tattoos, resulting in a very quick healing process – usually around four days. The tattoo therefore doesn’t crack or go patchy meaning there is no need for touch ups. Furthermore as there is no blood to push the colour out of the skin, the ink settles quite deeply and no colour is lost. Bamboo tattoos tend to maintain their colour extremely well, staying bright and strong. There is absolutely no problem going into the sun following the bamboo method of tattooing. Another major benefit with bamboo tattooing is that it is 90% LESS painful than machine tattooing.

There are some amazing and ancient designs available called Yak Sants.

Here is a video of some bamboo work that I filmed.

 

Yantra tattooing, also called sak yant or sak yan (Thaiสักยันต์ sạk yạnť,[1] Khmerសាក់យ័ន្តBurmeseတက်တူးထိုး), is a form of tattooing that originated from ancient Southeast Asia. It consists of sacred geometrical, animal and deity designs accompanied by Pali phrases that offer power, protection, fortune, charisma and other benefits for the bearer. Today it is practiced in Thailand and Myanmar, and to a much lesser extent in Laos and Cambodia. The practice has also begun to grow in popularity among Chinese Buddhists in Singapore.[2] Sak means tattoo in Thai, and yant is the Thai pronunciation for the Sanskrit word yantra,[3] a type of mystical diagram used in Dharmic religions.[4]

Sak yant designs are normally tattooed by ruesi (the Thai form of rishi), wicha (magic) practitioners, and Buddhist monks, traditionally with a long metal rod sharpened to a point (called a khem sak).[5]

Picking your artist…

For me, finding the right artist is important. I visited five tattoo shops before i found mine. I wanted someone who i connected with on a social level, had an interest in my design artistic ability, a hygienic shop, a butt load of experience and was kind and well priced. So not asking for much really… 😛

I visited the most popular stores first but found them to think of me as just another customer. I like a more personal experience so decided to go off the beaten path and find an artist with a bit more time. I woke to a couple of more spiritual artists until i found Jane who became my tattoo artist.

Jane’s English wasn’t great but we looked at my ideas together until we decided on something. I could clearly see from his shop which was full of paintings, crafts, and photo’s of previous work that he was an artist and after giving him a rough set of instructions let him do his own thing.

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The Pain

I have worked some tough jobs, completed basic training in the British military, broken several bones including the same arm 8 times and had an appendix that inflamed to the degree that i passed out. So I know when something hurts. Tattoos hurt…

Slightly nervous, I lay on his clean and hygienic bench, he stuck some Muay Thai as he knew i was into boxing. The pain – at first was not so bad, but for me being extremely ticklish and have very sensitive skin to the touch soon became excruciating.

I got through the first half of the design in 2 hours without stopping but at that point was squirming in the chair so we broke for lunch. i went straight to the pharmacy and bought some valium and some co-codamol. Im not suggesting you do the same but it did help me as i’m slightly intolerant to needles!

I popped the recommended amount and ate. feeling pretty dopey i got back in the chair. The pain was still there but at least i wasn’t jolting my muscles anymore. To be honest my girlfriend dealt better with the pain than i did. I think I’m just very sensitive as i have struggled with all my tattoos and am the most ticklish person i know.

After 6.5 hours of forcing myself not to jump out of the chair i was done.

Things I made sure to ask about before hand include…

  • Sterilisation and hygiene – Ask to see process. make sure your artist is clean you don’t want someone else’s juice in ya!
  • Experience – my artist was 48 years old and his studio was his portfolio. I even saw him working on someone else before i agreed to go with him
  • Price –  i paid 10,000 Bahht for a tattoo that took almost 7 hours. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me! My girlfriend’s cost only 2500 bahht for the 5 line sak want tattoo.
  • Bamboo Work- bamboo tattoos are not as neat as machine work but they have unique character and are iconic. They look great. like they’ve been carved into stone.

All in all this was an amazing experience. We were both really happy with the results and laughed and talked with Jane for a long time. I especially enjoyed playing drums with his daughter. His wife makes a good cup of coffee and the whole vibe is happy and inclusive.

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Jane’ tattoo shop Facebook page

Big Buddha Hiking route – Phuket

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We wanted to see Big Buddha up close and personal from the moment we laid eyes on it on the horizon of Phuket. at 45m high it is clearly visible from miles around and is an impressive shrine to the local religion and a peaceful monument of the spirituality of this wonderful part of the world and as a visitor it is a reminder to show respect to the beliefs of the people who have been so graciously inviting.

I am the adventurous type and immediately disliked the idea of driving to the top by moped or taxi. So here is my beautiful hiking route. it isn’t advertised and it takes a little finding but once you get started it is simple enough!

So jump on your scooter and head to Karon.

if you head along the beach front you are looking for Luang Phor Chuan road. turn onto this road then take the left at the end of the street . On this road you will find a Siam commercial bank with an ATM outside. Look to the other side of the road. there is a single lane turn off on the opposite side of the road from the bank. the map below shows the first leg. Take the turn off onto Patak soil 14. and drive up the road. it starts to get hilly pretty quick. not being particularly interested in walking on roads we continued driving until we got to a Blue sign saying Kuanbangla road. take at the blue sign for Kuanbangla road. Now it gets steep!

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We parked a little past the blue sign at a group of houses with plenty of space so as not to intrude on residents.

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The first part of the hike to the top of Big Buddha is narrow road. You will love the peace and quiet. We didn’t meat a single other tourist on this leg. We did meet some locals who were very polite and happy. We even met a moped on bumpy dirt track that looked like it was designed for motocross racing.

once you head left at the blue sign the route is fairly obvious and there is even one or two signs pointing you in the correct direction. there is one slightly confusing section. When the road turns from road to dirt track keep straight and head for the dirt track!

Now you are trekking!

It’s a great feeling to be off the beaten path enjoying the sounds of nature instead of humans. We met some large butterflies / moths and some weird chickens with long necks appeared out of the bushes we nicknamed them “raptors”. The track is short but fairly steep. The entire distance is about 7km. It’s beautiful and well worth the sweat!

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Its pretty hard to go wrong at this stage and some of the distance has been concreted to make it easier for mopeds. Eventually you will come out at the road. Here there is a pretty heart breaking elephant trekking centre that will make you question the morals of everyone involved and an ATV tour centre.

The last leg of the trek is up the road.

Yes unfortunately you are now back on the beaten path but fear not the last section is laden with restaurants and some beautiful view points. One shrine in particular over looks Karon Beach and you can view how far you’ve walked. We thought this place was fairly special.

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Follow the road up and you are in for a treat. Although it is still under construction, Big Buddha is an amazing and peaceful place to be and having trekked through natural ground to get there i somehow felt that i’d earned my place at the top of the Mountain. The monks prey and chant peacefully through speakers. You can be blessed by a monk if you so choose and there is a small museum of artefacts from Phuket and Thailand’s history with an obvious focus on Buddhism. I found the entire experience enchanting and peaceful, almost meditative.

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I felt bummed out when i saw people on ‘tours’ to Big Buddha when we had such an amazing experience for free but i fully appreciate that tourism is a big part of local residents’ livelihood.

Below is a map of the full route… Now go find it!

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www.phuket-big-buddha.com